“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6-7). Let us remember that Christmas is, at its heart, the story of delivery – the delivery of a baby who will deliver the world from sin and evil.
The delivery of Lula Mae Hardaway’s third son was going to be difficult. Not that Lula Mae wasn’t used to hardship or difficult challenges. She was born in 1930 to a teenage sharecropper mother who abandoned her to a string of abusive relatives.
Lula Mae moved North to find work and married a man thirty years her senior who forced her into prostitution in order to feed their growing family. Lula Mae fled her husband and took her young family to Detroit. There she found work as a maid and took her children to church every week.
When her third son was delivered too early – six weeks premature – he developed retinopathy which caused him to be blind. It was a difficult delivery and he would suffer the effects of that difficulty for the rest of his life. You can understand why Lula Mae was always very protective of that son, given the curious name of “Steveland.” He spent much of his childhood indoors, teaching himself to play a variety of musical instruments. And in music, little Steveland blossomed. He performed at church, became a Detroit neighborhood sensation and at age 11, was discovered by a Motown executive who gave him an album contract and a new name – (have you guessed it yet?) – Stevie Wonder.
There is a power of delivery at work in this world; a power we see most clearly in the birth pangs of our own personal and collective history when our efforts fall short and yet the power of God calls forth something bright and alive. That’s what lies at the heart of the Christmas story – God’s remarkable power of delivery.
I was surprised to find out Stevie Wonder gave his mother co-writing credit for several of his songs, most notably my personal favorite. Perhaps it’s that song we should be singing on Christmas Eve. It’s that song we should sing to a God who is able to bring us out of the darkness and into the light; out of our own despair and into a bright future, out of human failure and into the perfection of God’s intentions for us all. You know what song it is: Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours.
Your friend and fellow minister, Rev. Steve Savides